February 3, 2021
School of Engineering
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Boston University
Postdoctoral Fellowship, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
PhD, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Toronto
Master of Applied Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Toronto
Bachelor of Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China
“There will always be cyber codebreakers out there seeking to unlock private information, and our job is to stay as many steps ahead of them as we can.”
ALMOST EVERYONE HAS HEARD OF BLOCKCHAIN, but few understand what it actually is.
Blockchain relates to a number of technologies that enable information to be exchanged securely and accurately through connected digital systems. Like links in a chain, parts of information being transmitted are separated at the outset and then reconnected through the process. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?
But it’s this complexity that makes blockchain technology so secure, and why many sectors ranging from health care to clean energy and public administration are relying on it to maintain their integrity and security in an increasingly interconnected world.
Dr. Chen Feng — an assistant professor of engineering, UBC Okanagan Principal’s Research Chair (Tier 2) in Blockchain-empowered Digital Technology, and co-cluster lead of Blockchain@UBC — has always been enamoured by the concepts of numbers and how they relate to computers and electronics. Now he’s at the cutting-edge of blockchain innovation, taking information and coding theory and seeking out methods to optimize the design of these systems and networks.
“When I think about blockchain, I envision a number puzzle where you try and make the right connections to win the game while avoiding traps and unexpected challenges,” explains Dr. Feng.
Modern cryptography — the art of writing or solving codes — is extremely intricate, and often requires quantum computers to develop and utilize. However, as Dr. Feng points out, the drawback is that as computers continue to improve, they will soon become able to unlock today’s cryptography and blockchain systems.
According to Dr. Feng, it is both exciting and frustrating to always work on improving these systems. “The pay-off is that systems that are continuously being improved are even harder to break.”
He adds that blockchain has the potential to disrupt a wide range of industries in the coming years by providing trusted transactions of all types such as health records and land registration. Already, industries are finding that implementing blockchain solutions has led to increased efficiency and reduced costs.
In particular, blockchain plays an important role in increasing the trust level in the source, storage, and transfer of information and assets by helping to develop a secure digital infrastructure for other innovations. These include Industry 4.0, smart cities, smart power grids, personalized health care and connected medical devices.
Despite its growing prevalence, blockchain still needs to overcome some significant technical challenges in order to realize its true potential.
With Blockchain@UBC attracting over $3 million in research funding related to blockchain and digital technology, Feng continues to be at the forefront of its innovation.
As a modern-day cryptographer and coding theorist, he uses complex algorithms to ensure the highest level of security for information. Other variables that Dr. Feng has to consider include the type of information being transferred, the distance between sender and receiver, and the network transporting the information.
“There will always be cyber codebreakers out there seeking to unlock available, often private information, and our job is to stay as many steps ahead of them as we can.”
According to some estimations, emerging technology related to blockchain will continue to grow, with some suggesting those technologies will be worth over $350 billion US by 2026, and over $3 trillion US by 2030.
With the help of researchers like Dr. Feng, blockchain has a very promising and secure future ahead of it.